The US Air Force has neither the aircraft nor the budget to meet minimum annual close air support training requirements. Decreased training increases the risk of bombing and potentially killing friendly troops. The more realistic training troops receive the better they are at their job of reducing fratricide. On June 9th, 2014, 5 US soldiers were killed in a horrible friendly fire incident. The after action report cited the lack of close air support training as a significant contributing factor in their deaths. Savannah-based Paladin Aviation wants to end tragedies like this by putting a JTAC certified US Army soldier in every platoon.
Founded by Air Force veteran and Savannah resident Charlie Loomis (pictured above), “Paladin Aviation provides low-cost aviation services to the military combining a high-performance, propeller-driven aircraft and electro-optic/infrared sensor into one easily deployable training system to meet the military’s need for a low-cost solution to fill the close air support training gap,” explains Loomis. “Our solution decreases traditional close air support training cost by 97% while simultaneously increasing training effectiveness.”
As a Close Air Support Instructor for 12 years, Loomis was awarded two Bronze Stars for leadership in Iraq and Afghanistan. He got the idea for Paladin Aviation while serving in Iraq in 2005. “I was 30 miles north of Baghdad supporting a base defense mission when I identified a military capability gap,” he recalls. “At first, the problem was a solution for self preservation, but after multiple military deployments, the idea evolved from a solution to solve a deployed military problem to one that was more enduring solving a military training problem. In a time of war and peace, military training is always critical and never goes out of style.”
“Our solution will not only increase close air support training and help reduce the risk of friendly fire deaths, this solution will also reduce the flight time of legacy aircraft that are already passed their service life and working on their second service life extension,” continues Loomis. “What we are doing is revolutionizing US military close air support training and laying the foundation for something much more audacious.”
Charlie is proud to base Paladin Aviation in Savannah. “Georgia is a fantastic place to launch this startup,” he says. “For the past 12 years I was stationed at Fort Stewart, about 20 miles west of Savannah and I intimately know the problems facing the Airmen and Soldiers who call in airstrikes. With the high concentration of USAF Airmen and US Army Soldiers who are located in the state and in the surrounding states, there are plenty of customers who need our solution.”
While Loomis is currently bootstrapping Paladin Aviation, he is also actively partnering with a future supplier to keep startup cost low. His goal is to expand to 10 major military locations securing 8% of the market per location without compromising customer service.
Keep an eye on Loomis, Paladin, and Savannah for future southern innovation.